Recently, the news has been full of stories on a contraceptive medication for males. Researchers seek to “even the playing field” when it comes to contraception options. Development of a male birth control pill is being explored, but many methods being considered are not pills at all. No matter the prescription, there are some important things to know about the options being pursued.
At first, the pills contained only a synthetic testosterone. This did inhibit sperm production, but the necessary amount of the hormone also came with unsafe side effects on the liver and kidneys. Researchers have been trying combination of testosterone and a progesterone. Tests have shown that the introduction of progesterone can inhibit male sexuality.
They have tried an injection containing Eppin that targets the immune system and inhibits sperm from maturing. Side effects of this method included hot flashes and mood swings.
One of the leading ideas right now seems to be an implant (which is interesting because female implants were taken off the market in the US because of difficulty with scaring and getting the implant out). The implant would release progesterone, and it would need to be combined with a testosterone shot to keep other male sexuality intact.
Non-hormonal methods include trying to disable the sperm “tails”, lowering sperm count, scrambling the sperm or keeping the sperm from being released at all. All of these seem troubling to me, and they are quick to say that all of these are reversible and will not effect long term fertility. However, long term effects of female birth control pills are just now being studied. While the ability to ovulate returns, the atrophy of the cervix and the natural production of hormones has a devastating effect on the ability to conceive. Creating the only medications designed to interrupt natural function may be reversible from one angle, but they have been seen to create problems that were not on the radar during production. I can’t help but think that these medications will prove to be the same way.
Watson, Stephanie. “How the Male Birth-control Pill Will Work” 09 July 2005. HowStuffWorks.com. <http://health.howstuffworks.com/sexual-health/contraception/male-bc-pill.htm> 06 June 2011.
“Some Notes on the Cervical Crypts”, Dr E. Odeblad, Bulletin of the Ovulation Method Research and Reference Centre of Australia, Vol 24 No 2 June 1997, p31